IMPD chief, clergy meet to discuss police action shootings, diversity within department

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 20, 2016) -- In a meeting that was set before a controversial fatal police action shooting April 5, IMPD Chief Troy Riggs welcomed more than two dozen local ministers to the Regional Operations Center for a briefing that included data on officer involved shootings, homicide solve rates and minority hiring.

“And I appreciate people wanting to see this,” said Riggs, “and we’re an open book and we’re going to show this to you.”

What followed was a presentation that laid out statistically how dangerous it is for officers who patrol Indianapolis, how hard it is to solve the killings of African American victims and the challenge the department faces in hiring diversity.

Two weeks ago Kevin Hicks battled with an IMPD officer in the parking lot of an east side convenience store. Hicks was unarmed, but investigators report he injured the officer while knocking away his Taser and struggling for the patrolman’s gun. Hicks was reportedly shot in the face in what was essentially close contact combat.

Some clergy members called for the release of a store surveillance video that police said showed the fight but not the shooting. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said court rules prevent him from releasing evidence of a case still under investigation.

“We’ve had 35 fatal police officer shootings since 2008,” said Riggs as the numbers were displayed on a video screen for the ministers to see. “This is all shootings, fatal and non-fatal. We’ve had 55 officer involved shootings since 2013.”

Riggs said 37% of the time his officers did not shoot back when they were fired upon. The chief explained that his detectives succeeded in solving approximately 70% of the murders of African American victims in 2015 as opposed to approximately 85% of the killings of white victims.

Investigators have said cooperation from witnesses in the black community is more of a challenge and many of those murders are drug related.

Marion County’s African American population tops 25%, yet IMPD’s racial makeup of its 1,643 sworn officers is more than 10% lower.

Riggs displayed charts that indicated black officer candidates as recently as last year made up 17% of IMPD recruit classes, but that number has most recently fallen to 11%.

The chief asked the clergy to help identify qualified candidates in their communities who might consider law enforcement careers.

Rev. James Jackson of Fervent Prayer Church said high school students who would chose to participate in IMPD explorer programs could become targets for violence in their neighborhoods.

“I’ve accepted that challenge to help out with that,” said Jackson, “to help produce qualified candidates, to look for young people who could potentially be a good police officer.”

Jackson had served on the IMPD Merit Board with firsthand knowledge of the challenge the department faces in recruiting minority candidates.

“I think this kind of collaboration is important to keep the community informed,” he said, “to help keep our relationships strong so we can prevent police action shootings and officers being assaulted in the future.”

After the public meeting the ministers, some of whom called for more transparency from the department, met privately with IMPD commanders to express other concerns outside the presence of the media.

The clergy were also invited to ride alongside IMPD officers on patrol to see what their city looks like from the front seat of a police car.

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